Harvest at Mynachlog by Gillian Clarke

At last the women come with baskets,
The older one in flowered apron,
A daisied cloth covering the bread
And dappled china, sweet tea
In a vast can. The women stoop
Spreading their cups in the clover.

The engines stop. A buzzard watches
From the fence. We bury our wounds
In the deep grass: sunburnt shoulders,
Bodies scratched with straw, wrists bruised
From the weight of the bales, blood beating.

For hours the baler has been moulding
Golden bricks from the spread straw,
Spewing them at random in the stubble.
I followed the slow load, heaved each
Hot burden, feeling the sun contained.

And unseen over me a man leaned,
Taking the weight to make the toppling
Load. Then the women came, friendly
And cool as patches of flowers at the far
Field edge, mothy and blurred in the heat.

We are soon recovered and roll over
In the grass to take our tea. We talk
Of other harvests. They remember
How a boy, flying his plane so low
Over the cut fields that his father

Straightened from his work to wave his hat
At the boasting sky, died minutes later
On an English cliff, in such a year
As this, the barns brimming gold.

We are quiet again, holding our cups
In turn for the tilting milk, sad, hearing
The sun roar like a rush of grain
Engulfing all winged things that live
One moment in the eclipsing light.

.

by Gillian Clarke
from The Sundial (Gwasg Gomer, 1978)

A recital of the poem by Heather Plow

Information:Mynachlog’ means ‘monastery’ in Welsh. The subject of the poem is most likely a Grade II Listed farm house building in Northop, Flintshire.

For a line by line analysis of the poem there is a teacher’s help sheet created by Lizzie Fincham for Swansea University’s CREW.

A Leave-Taking by William Phylip

Goodbye, the secret of the song, the brilliant right-order,
Goodbye Hendre Fechan,
And the song-books, bright pure song,
To you, goodbye now also.

I’d a house to sleep, to live I’d shelter,
Food and drink suffice me;
I’d a home till I were dead,
And a fire (thank God!) kept burning.

In place of my old homestead, and the woe
Here, of an early life,
In heaven God will give me now
A home where’s no returning.

Green woods, farewell, where the small birds sang
A choice, correct, sweet song;
Farewell, all the song-chained groves,
Each path where song would wander.

.

By William Phylip
d. 1670

translated by Tony Conran

.

Information: The title is technically ‘A Leave-Taking of Hendre Fechan, his home‘. There is a holiday cottage, in Tal-y-bont, dating back to 1616 with the name Hendre Fechan. I can’t confirm if it is the same location alluded to in the poem but it is very coincidental if not.

Мужья со своими делами, нервами… (‘Always busy, plagued by anxiety…’ a.k.a ‘Husbands with their doings and nerves…’) by Boris Slutsky

Always busy, plagued by anxiety,

guilt-ridden, duty to be done –

husbands should be the first to die;

never the ones who’re left alone.

.

Wives should grow old slowly. Aim

for the four-score-and-twenty mark, even;

not every day, but from time to time

remembering their men.

.

You should not have left the way

you did. That was wrong.

With a kind smile on your face

you should have lived on,

you should have lived long.

.

Until their hair turns white –

for wives, that’s the way to wait,

.

getting on with things around the home,

breaking the odd heart if they can,

and even (well, where’s the harm?)

toasting the memory of their old man.

.

.

by Борис Абрамович Слуцкий

(Boris Abramovich Slutsky)

(1977)

translated by G. S. Smith

.

Here is an alternative translation of this poem by Gerald S. Smith.

Beneath is the original Russian version of the poem in Cyrillic.

.

Мужья со своими делами, нервами…

Мужья со своими делами, нервами,
чувством долга, чувством вины
должны умирать первыми, первыми,
вторыми они умирать не должны.

Жены должны стареть понемногу,
хоть до столетних дойдя рубежей,
изредка, впрочем, снова и снова
вспоминая своих мужей.

Ты не должна была делать так,
как ты сделала. Ты не должна была.
С доброй улыбкою на устах
жить ты должна была,
долго должна была.

Жить до старости, до седины
жены обязаны и должны,

делая в доме свои дела,
чьи-нибудь сердца разбивая
или даже — была не была —
чарку — в память мужей — распивая.

Death of a Young Woman by Gillian Clarke

She died on a hot day. In a way

Nothing was different. The stretched white

Sheet of her skin tightened no further.

She was fragile as a yacht before,

Floating so still on the blue day’s length,

That one would not know when the breath

Blew out and the sail finally slackened.

Her eyes had looked opaquely in the

Wrong place to find those who smiled

From the bedside, and for a long time

Our conversations were silent.

The difference was that in her house

The people were broken by her loss.

He wept for her and for the hard tasks

He had lovingly done, for the short,

Fierce life she had lived in the white bed,

For the burden he had put down for good.

As we sat huddled in pubs supporting

Him with beer and words’ warm breath,

We felt the hollowness of his release.

Our own ungrateful health prowled, young,

Gauche about her death. He was polite,

Isolated. Free. No point in going home.

by Gillian Clarke

from The Sundial (Gwasg Gomer) (1978)

‘Вооруженный зреньем узких ос’ (‘Armed with wasp-vision. With the vision of wasps…’ by Osip Mandelstam

Armed with wasp-vision, with the vision of wasps
that suck, suck, suck the earth's axis,
I'm filled by the whole deep vein of my life
and hold it here in my heart
and in vain.

And I don't draw, don't sing,
don't draw a black-voiced bow over strings:
I only drink, drink, drink in life and I love
to envy wasp-
waisted wasps their mighty cunning.

O if I too
could be impelled past sleep, past death,
stung by the summer's cheer and chir,
by this new air
to hear earth's axis, axis, axis.


by Осип Эмильевич Мандельштам (Osip Emilyevich Mandelshtam.)
His surname is commonly latinised as Mandelstam)
(8 February 1937)
translated by Robert Chandler
the poem read by Stanislav Komardin

Below is the original Russian Cyrillic version of the poem.

Вооруженный зреньем узких ос, 
Сосущих ось земную, ось земную,
Я чую всё, с чем свидеться пришлось,
И вспоминаю наизусть и всуе.

И не рисую я, и не пою,
И не вожу смычком черпоголосым,
Я только в жизнь впиваюсь и люблю
Завидовать могучим, хитрым осам.

О, если б и меня когда-нибудь могло
Заставить, сон и смерть минуя,
Стрекало Еоздуха и летнее тепло
Услышать ось земную, ось земную.

Extra information: The wasp-waist was a fashion regarding a women’s fashion silhouette, produced by a style of corset and girdle, that has experienced various periods of popularity in the 19th and 20th centuries. Its primary feature is the abrupt transition from a natural-width rib cage to an exceedingly small waist, with the hips curving out below. It takes its name from its similarity to a wasp’s segmented body. The sharply cinched waistline also exaggerates the hips and bust.

To put it bluntly Mandelstam is talking about admiring women, at least in part, in this poem.

Mandelstam was said to have had an affair with the poet Anna Akhmatova. She insisted throughout her life that their relationship had always been a very deep friendship, rather than a sexual affair. In the 1910s, he was in love, secretly and unrequitedly, with a Georgian princess and St. Petersburg socialite Salomea Andronikova, to whom Mandelstam dedicated his poem “Solominka” (1916).

In 1922, Mandelstam married Nadezhda Khazina in Kiev, Ukraine, where she lived with her family. He continued to be attracted to other women, sometimes seriously. Their marriage was threatened by his falling in love with other women, notably Olga Vaksel in 1924-25 and Mariya Petrovykh in 1933-34.

During Mandelstam’s years of imprisonment, 1934–38, Nadezhda accompanied him into exile. Given the real danger that all copies of Osip’s poetry would be destroyed, she worked to memorize his entire corpus, as well as to hide and preserve select paper manuscripts, all the while dodging her own arrest. In the 1960s and 1970s, as the political climate thawed, she was largely responsible for arranging clandestine republication of Mandelstam’s poetry.